The plant has been ready to start operation since early May but got embroiled in disputes with the local residents.
SYDNEY: Australia’s Lynas Corp said today it has received a temporary operating licence for its long-delayed US$800 million rare earths plant in Malaysia, enabling it to start production as early as October.
The Lynas plant in Gebeng, Pahang, has been ready to fire up since early May, but the company has been embroiled in lengthy environmental and safety disputes with local residents since construction began two years ago.
Widespread protests over concerns about possible radioactive residue have drawn thousands of people at a time, and the project has become a hot topic ahead of an election likely to be held this year.
The Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) issued the permit following an earlier recommendation from a government committee.
“Receiving this licence from the AELB is a significant milestone for Lynas,” Lynas executive chairman Nicholas Curtis said in a statement.
Kilns to process rare earth concentrate were expected to begin in October, Lynas added.
The plant is considered important to efforts to break China’s grip on rare earths that are used in products ranging from smartphones to hybrid cars.
In an immediate reaction, Kuantan MP and vocal opponent of the Lynas project Fuziah Salleh questioned the timing of AELB’s decision to issue the TOL to Lynas.
She said that AELB should have waited first for the hearing of a related matter filed by concerned residents in the court.
“The MOSTI minister whose decision is being challenged and is the basis for the judicial review should know better than to agree on the issuance of the TOL to Lynas,” she said in a statement.